A tale of housing exploitation, but with a hopeful ending.

Here is a tale of the exploitation, told from the point of view of a young single girl trying to find a home…. but it has a hopeful ending.

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How to really make Britain great again.

The headline tells us “Brexit to send UK tumbling down world economic league table…”.  and we ask “Is this making Britain great again?”

But the headline, indeed the whole question of where Britain ranks in the world economy has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether Britain is great.  What matters is whether Britain is becoming more human.

Being human has nothing to do with the economy or wealth, but everything to do with values. It is about valuing everybody equally, irrespective of colour, class, wealth or religion. It is about selfless behaviour for the good of others. It is about acting with integrity and speaking truth. It is about doing what is right, irrespective of the consequences.

Britain will become great when those who are well off are willing to contribute enough to ensure the wellbeing of those who are not well off,  when we are willing to give up our own comforts for those who have nothing,  when we are willing to give sanctuary to those fleeing war dispite the risk of personal harm.

Britain will become great when we stop expecting a political system that gives everyone all the rights that they demand, but encourages us all to self-centredness. We cannot demand perfection from public services that we are not prepared to fund. We need to stop demanding perfect treatment from others, when we cannot give it ourselves.  We need to stop demanding that teachers work until midnight to keep up.  We need to stop expecting to be treated in A&E within minutes when we have drunkenly staggered into a lamppost.  We need to stop abandoning our personal responsibility for our own circumstances.

Britain will become great only when we choose to love one another; when we learn to contribute what we can, and to keep our expectations of others reasonable.  That is my hope for 2017.  Make it yours.

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The ethical way to balance the books

If the government makes ‘savings’ of £1million, what does it actually save?  Well, by savings we mean job cuts, and almost all of the job cuts are from lowly paid workers.

A person on (say) £12000 a year will pay £673 in tax and NI contribution.  They now do not have a job and so will receive (at least) jobseekers allowance of £73.1 a week, or the equivalent of £3801 a year.  So the immediate saving is not £12000 but £7525 a year.

But someone on a low income will not be saving, but spending their money to live.  The government will therefore lose VAT on their spending, let’s say on average 15%.  Applied to £7525 a year this reduces the saving to £6397.

On top of that, anything that they buy will add to the profits of the business who sell them the product – and the business will be paying tax on the profit. The business will employ someone to get the product to them and serve them – and that person is paying tax too.

So for every £1million that the government claims to cut the saving is probably only half at best.

In terms of human suffering this seems to me to be a very cruel and inefficient way of balancing the books.  Surely it is better to increase the contributions from the wealthy who will not suffer any hardship, but simply see a reduction in the amount of money that they squirrel away?

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“Sorry Jesus, you got it wrong”

Two children are in a fight, and when we separate them both point at the other and shout “well he started it”.  We might respond “well even if he did, you carried it on!”

But as we grow older we forget to apply Christ’s simple but profound wisdom to our own lives.

 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Of course, as we become adults our disputes are less likely to be over schoolboy issues.  We might have a ‘neighbour from hell’ who takes advantage of us and tramples over our ‘rights’.  And when we respond in kind, and when the conflict escalates we say ‘well he started it’.  And perhaps ‘who are you to criticise what I do?’.

When,  was a Christian,e find ourselves in this sort of situation, do we respond by justifying our actions? Do we argue that Jesus’ teaching is wrong and doesn’t apply to our case?  Or do we admit that we are in the wrong, perhaps too tired or weak to do what we should.  Do we accept that we are falling short of his instruction to be ‘perfect’ (i.e. do we repent) and humbly ask him to work with us to correct this flaw in our character?

If we look elsewhere at Jesus’ wisdom we find that he has already given guidance on how to love our enemy.  Again, we have a choice of arguing that he must have got it wrong, or we can choose to work with him to try to follow his words:

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.  If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.”

 “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

None of us are yet perfect and we all fall short of Jesus standard.  But the critical question is, do we want to be perfect?  Do we want to change and allow Jesus sacrifice and grace wash us clean.

If we want to hold on to our hatred, anger and right to hit back at our neighbour then Jesus cannot help us.  A pastor often told me “Sin cannot get into heaven” … if we want to hold on to our sin, we can do – but we could not be allowed into heaven; we would spoil it for everyone else.  If we choose to hold on to our hatred then we are choosing to separate ourselves from the infinite goodness that is God.

To be clear, I am not judging or criticising anyone who finds themselves in a difficult situation with an enemy. None of us know how we would respond if we were in someone else’s shoes.  None of us can tell another to remove the speck from their eye!  Judgement is for God alone.  But hopefully this post points out simply and lovingly what Jesus tells us.

“the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

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Immigrants!

“A business man was coming back from a sales trip overseas.  His flight was delayed and he managed only to get the last train back to where his car was parked at the station.  It was late at night, and as he took his keys to open his car he was set upon by robbers.  They beat him up, stole his keys, wallet and computer, and left him lying there in the station car park.

The car park was quiet, for it was late at night and he lay there, hunched up and groaning in pain.

Another late train drew in. The first into the car park was a wealthy land owner and landlord.  He saw the man lying there and muttered under his breath about how drug addicts were spreading everywhere.  As he clicked the central locking on his 4×4 he made a mental not to write to the leader of the council about cleaning addicts out of the area.

The next person into the car park was a middle classed lady coming back from a day shopping.  She looked across at the man, and in the dark assumed that he was one of the homeless, turning to drink to drown his sorrows.  She kept her distance; she was worried for her own safety.  Why doesn’t the government do something to help these people she thought to herself.  I might have to think about voting for one of the other parties next time.

No more trains came in, but later that night an immigrant was walking by on his way to his night shift at an out of town warehouse and distribution centre.  He saw the man still slumped there, and went across to him.  He saw the state of the man, and tried his best to bandage the wounds and make him comfortable, wrapping his own coat around him and giving him a sip from the hot drink he’d brought with him to keep out the cold on the walk home.  He called the emergency services and waited with the man for the two hours until they came.  Finally some paramedics arrived and told the immigrant that they would now look after the business man and that he should go on his way.

He walked the two miles to his warehouse job, but when he arrived the supervisor berated him for lateness and summarily dismissed him.  His story of helping the injured man was treated as such – a story made up to cover his laziness, and he was told that he was a shirker who should go back to his own country.  He sadly walked back to his shared room, wondering how to break the news to his family, and worrying about how he would now be able to afford this month’s rent.”

Which of these people was making our nation great again?

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Is it possible to be a Christian and right wing?

It’s not complicated.  Jesus said “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me.”

And what are His commandments?

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

and here are some more details:

“If you lend only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? …  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid”

“Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow”

How does this square with austerity measures imposed by the wealthy on the poor?

Just asking…..

 

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“Back in the day …” But why not now?

There was a time when it was wrong to tell a lie.

There was a time when we were taught that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

There was a time when we were taught that it was good to share.

There was a time when we were taught to “do as you would be done by”; to treat others as you would like them to treat you.  That every person was our neighbour, irrespective of where they came from, or which ‘tribe’ they belonged to.

All of these were accepted fundamental truths: words of Christ which spoke to our conscience and were proved correct by our experience.

Look at the papers, with the lies and attitudes of politicians in the US election and the Brexit campaign, the inequality, the refugee situation, the callous treatment of the poor, and we can see that we do not live in such a time.

I miss when human beings cared about each other, when decency was valued and we respected each other.  I want to see our nation, our world return to those values.

Do you?

Let it start with you and me.  Let’s vote knowingly, and act selflessly to change society back to what it should be.

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Worried about where your children are going to live?

Worried about where your children are going to live?  You should be.

The average house price in the UK is around £300,000, with average first time buyer house price at around £200,000. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/16/average-asking-price-first-time-buyer-home-buy-to-let-stamp-duty

If a prospective first time buyer has raised the £20,000 deposit, then taking into account costs they will need an income of around £39000 a year to be offered a mortgage.  And they will be charged around 4% for the privilege. http://www.halifax.co.uk/mortgages/mortgage-calculator/calculator/#

Only the top 20% of earners in the country have that level of income.   http://www.salarygraph.co.uk/

So, if your children want a home of their own, then without help they will need to be in the top 20% of wage earners.

How can you help as a parent?  Here’s one example.  If you own your home and have paid off your mortgage already then you could take out a mortgage on your home at a much better rate, and then lend the money to your children.  Suppose your home is the average value, then you would need to borrow just under 65% of the value.  An offset mortgage with the Coventry for instance offers a rate of under 2% (lower because of the better loan to value ratio) http://www.coventrybuildingsociety.co.uk/mortgages/AccountSummary.aspx?socseqno=1&prodCode=OFL50&Company=1  Taking out an offset mortgage on your own house also means that you can set up the mortgage before your children need the money to buy a home.   So even if they are some years away from wanting to buy, you can still be putting arrangements in place.

But you could make good use of the funds in the meantime. Why not do something immediately to help others who are desperately in need of homes?  Think about the suggestion in this article: https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2016/29-april/comment/opinion/use-what-power-you-have-to-help-the-poor .  Or if you want even lower risk, then you could buy a house and lease it to your local council. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/let-your-home-to-the-council-paul-gosling-reports-on-a-tenant-who-could-prove-ideal-1535702.html

The housing situation is difficult, not just for our own children but for many others.  This is worrying, but I hope this short article shows that as individuals we are not helpless.  If you are in a position to help, then why not have a go?  It can be fun and rewarding.

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Time to repent.

In an earlier post I wrote “Inequality between the richest and the poorest is a man-made thing. Men have put it in place. Men defend it. Men can dismantle it.”  I was wrong.

Recent events clearly show that left alone, mankind is selfish, greedy and tribal.  Only when empowered by the spirit of love and goodness can men and women make a difference.

We need more leaders who promote that spirit, but we are cursed with politicians such as Trump who despise love and goodness.  Many of the Brexit arguments from both sides were appealing to our baser nature.  And we listen to them and subdue the spirit of love in our heart.

So what must we do to change the state of things?  We were given the answer two thousand years ago:

“Repent, and give up our life of sin”

Each one of us needs to take stock of our values and choose to live by what really matters: to love our neighbour as ourselves.  We need to embrace the spirit of love and goodness, accept forgiveness for how we have been and from now on choose to love.  That is the only way that the evil in this world will be defeated.

For more details, go to your local church or read:

Christianity why bother cover

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Warning!

Behaviour like that of Philip Green is more than just the unacceptable face of capitalism, it is the root cause of the turmoil in our country and world today.

The greed of the very rich caused the deprivation in the many parts of England, which in turn led to the Brexit vote.

The demand for high dividends and returns on investment leads companies to cut costs and exploit their powerless workers, demanding longer hours, zero hours contracts and low wages.  The stress this causes leads to anger.  The deprivation of family time leads to unruly children.

The sucking of money out of the economy by the rich causes the shortage of jobs and leads to hopelessness in the younger generation.  What future have they got if they see that you need a degree to work in a fast food store.

Are you someone who is profiting from the poor?  Carry on if you wish, but you bear responsibility for the coming turmoil.  Look back at history and learn what the selfishness and greed of those in power leads to.  Or simply say “let them eat cake”.

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